Humanity is faced with a number of radical changes in the premises for our life on Earth.
The threats we face
Population growth in the world's poorest countries alone will change the global security balance fundamentally, in particular because it typically involves communities where education is poor and religion plays a significant role.
When the climate changes, it will change our physical living conditions everywhere. Among the planet's seven billion people, millions will be displaced because of drought, flood and famine, and if we do not prepare ourselves globally, it will lead to war and ethnic cleansing in many areas.
Within a few years, developments in nanotechnology, biotechnology and surveillance technology, along with the weapons industry, will give totalitarian regimes power options which have never previously existed, while unregulated global capitalism will concentrate the world's resources in very few hands.
If we want our children, grandchildren and those who come after to experience only a fraction of the liberties and the security and prosperity achieved in the West and which the rest of the world strives for, humanism and democracy are, so far, the only known feasible solution.
If this solution is to be implemented globally, we need to get a move on. It's not something that will happen by itself, and if that's what we want, we really have to want it bad and work hard for it - globally.
On the plus side, the world has more democracies today than ever before. We also have opportunities to converse across the globe to an extent that no previous generation has had. It is thus possible for a global community based on brand new premises. Moreover, we have global trade and investment, making us dependent on each other, environmental agreements and international courts, as well as trade unions and other non-governmental organisations operating across borders. In short, we are on the way to building an international community.
Seeing oneself from the outside and acknowledging one's mistakes
A prerequisite for us to be able to get this international community to work is that we learn to look at our own culture and see our mistakes through others people's eyes. This applies to all of us.
This is an area where we can all learn something from the Germans and the Americans.
It was widely believed in the post-war years that Germans didn't have what it takes to be democratic. This turned out to be a misjudgement. However. that's not all; after the war, the Germans were forced to confront their past and their crimes. The Germans took responsibility on themselves for the nation's transgressions. In history books, debates, literature, art and, more recently, in mainstream films, Germans have been looking at themselves and facing up to their crimes. In recent decades, U.S. mainstream culture has seen a similar development.
This is an exercise we could all benefit from; Europeans, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Israelis, Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Russians, Africans, Arabs, in fact the whole globe.
Truth and reconciliation
A possible way forward would be a global truth and reconciliation commission based on their experience in South Africa.
Another option is an international school textbook commission, under UN auspices, for example, where neighbouring countries work together to edit the contents of each other's history books and other teaching materials so future generations do not grow up with today's enemy images. It may sound like the ideal recipe for a total diplomatic crisis, but if globalisation is to have a chance to benefit the whole world, and if we are to guarantee security and freedom to each other in a global society, it can hardly be avoided.
A common history
Possibly the most important thing we could do, though, is to create a common, global mythology that can tell the great story of humanity, freedom and democracy, without someone taking a patent on it as belonging to them more than someone else. If humanism is going to get a reasonable chance, it must speak to us all and it must speak as much to our feelings as to our minds, without our minds disappearing.
It's just a matter of getting going.
Next chapter: Your Experiences and Suggestions